Confessions of Fitness Instructors

Stepping into the gym can be a bit daunting. The eyes of weightlifters and cardio junkies can plant seeds of insecurity, especially for beginners. For those who don’t sweat it alone and instead join in on a fitness class or enlist guidance from a personal trainer, the worry then lies in what the professional thinks of the amateur. Don’t sweat it, though, there’s no need to raise your hand in class and ask the instructor what she thinks about you. We collected responses from over 500 current or former fitness instructors and personal trainers to hear what they really thought about their clientele. Keep reading to find out how judgmental fitness instructors truly are and what annoying behaviors they’ve personally been guilty of.

Success in all health-related matters, whether diet or exercise, is consistency - advice from trainers

Fitness, not Phone Calls

Surveyed trainers find it most annoying when clients use phones during appointments.

If you’re trying to get on your instructor’s good side, you may want to put down the phone and pick up the pace. Using the phone in class or during personal training appointments is the top way to annoy your instructor, followed by skipping appointments and practicing poor personal hygiene.

A huge factor in gym anxiety stems from being self-conscious about your appearance. After all, 55 percent of women avoid the gym completely due to fear of judgment. But when it comes to fitness instructors and personal trainers, they can be more understanding than you may think. Fifty-five percent aren’t bothered at all by a client being self-conscious, likely because most professionals in the fitness world also have insecurities. If Instagram fitness models have taught us anything, it’s that even those with perfectly sculpted bodies and years of experience can experience anxiety surrounding their appearance and abilities.

Fit and Frustrated

The worst experience is just with people who want to use up all of their time talking - Worst Student Experiences.

Top 5 client behaviors that annoy fitness instructors include poor personal hygiene, using phone during appointment, skipping appointments, ego and general laziness.

Depending on the fitness type, certain behaviors may be even more annoying. While fitness instructors and trainers as a whole didn’t find children tagging along to be too much of a problem, it landed in the top five most annoying behaviors in the CrossFit arena. CrossFit’s high-intensity routines increase the chances of injury, and adding a child into the mix can put both the child and client at risk of getting hurt.

When it comes to sports fitness, check your ego and apathy at the door. Sixty percent of instructors and trainers in this realm find big egos and laziness the most annoying of behaviors.Personal trainers are also annoyed by laziness, but not as much as skipping appointments. While it may not overly irk the instructor of a group class, skipping a 1-on-1 session with a personal trainer is sure to get on their nerves. Time is money, and even personal trainers don’t want it wasted.

Be on time, because time is money. My money! - Advice from trainer

Judgment-Free Zone?

Dance aerobics and CrossFit instructors were the most judgmental.

Even though most go to the gym to get fit, not to impress, the worry of judgment is in the back of a lot of people’s minds. And while they are there to train us, not judge us, 44 percent of instructors and trainers have thought less of a client for at least one aspect of their behavior or appearance.

I would never, ever think less of someone for being out of shape and seeking fitness training - Advice from Trainers.

However, the level of judgment varies depending on the type of fitness they are instructing. Dance aerobics and CrossFit instructors were the most judgmental, with 61 percent and 52 percent judging their clients, respectively, while yoga instructors were the least – only 40 percent admitted to passing judgment.

If you’re looking for an instructor who is more understanding, one with less experience is the way to go. Only 43 percent of instructors and trainers with less than a year of experience have judged clients, while 58 percent of instructors with three to four years of experience are guilty of doing so.

Fitness Faux Pas

33% of fitness instructors have took it easy during a fitness workout.

Nearly half of trainers have judged clients, but how many of them are guilty of participating in behavior they find judge-worthy?Thirty-three percent have not given it their all and have taken it easy during fitness workouts. And while most fitness instructors across all types of fitness find phone usage annoying, an average 24 percent said they were guilty of using their own during an appointment or class.

I'd say my worst experience was a guy who felt his body could not change - Worst Student Experiences.

Alcohol normally doesn’t fit in with a workout regimen, but male and female instructors are just as likely one another to show up to an appointment or class hungover. When it comes to hooking up with clients, which 13 percent of instructors admit to, men are more than twice as likely to report doing so. They are also twice as likely to report hooking up with a fellow instructor. The good news for clients, though, is that only 6 percent of instructors have assigned an intense fitness routine as revenge. The tough workouts they assign really are for your benefit.

Workout Woes

The top judgmental actions committed by instructor are taking it easy during workouts and using phones during workouts.

While attending a fitness class or personal training session, it’s usually the client who looks up to the instructor. But instructors aren’t free of insecurities. As it turns out, 9 percent of dance aerobics, general fitness, and yoga instructors admitted to feeling jealous of a client. General fitness instructors also admitted to assigning an intense fitness regimen or routine as a form of revenge more than any other fitness type.

Fulfillment Through Fitness

Majority of surveyed instructors say they are satisfied with their client's performance.

My mother has been my worst student experience because there is too much personal history - Worst Student Experience

Fitness instructors may get annoyed by their clients, but ultimately, they are usually proud of them. Eighty-seven percent of instructors indicated satisfaction with their clients’ performance, and only 8 percent were dissatisfied. In a field with a goal of helping people, it’s no surprise that three-quarters of instructors find their profession very or extremely rewarding. So next time you’re worried the instructor of the group is disappointed in your improper form, remember they most likely aren’t judging you. Their job is to help, and the majority love doing exactly that. And for those who haven’t joined out of fear, it should be comforting to hear that percent of instructors actually find it desirable to work with new clients. So, don’t be shy.

Excuses, Excuses

Most common client excuses include not enough time/too busy, lack of motivation, and tireness.

If there’s one thing instructors can all agree on, it’s that they’ve heard every excuse in the book. The most common excuse, of course, is lack of time. There may only be 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week, but saying there is not enough time to work out really means there is not enough motivation. The simple truth is we have time for what is important to us. If working out isn’t a priority, any excuse will seem valid.

Making excuses not to work out is obviously detrimental to your health. You can’t get the benefits of the gym if you’re “too tired” to go. But making excuses can also hurt your instructors in the long run. Excuses often come out at the last minute, and if excuses lead to cancellations, instructors could be losing out on their income.

Strength in Sympathy

While the gym typically may seem like a much-needed escape from everyday stressors, some days it is just pure torture. You’re not the only one who can experience bad days at the gym, though. Personal trainers chose the gym for their office, but just like you can’t exactly choose your co-workers, trainers and instructors can’t always choose their clients. So, even if you feel like the gym is your personal torture chamber, don’t make your instructor join in on the agony. Put your phone down, pick up some weights, and give it your all. You don’t have to have six-pack abs to make your trainer happy – just enough motivation and effort to get you to the gym.


We collected responses from 540 people who had currently or previously been employed as a fitness instructor or personal trainer. Fifty-nine percent of participants were men, 41 percent were women, and less than 1 percent identified as a gender not listed in our survey. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 78, with a mean of 32 and a standard deviation of 8.5.

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